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Shopping centre focus in Brisbane COVID mystery

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Queensland authorities are trying to work out if there is a link between the schoolgirl and a truck driver, who visited a number of venues, including at Westfield Garden City. Photo: Facebook
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Scores of Brisbane families have been forced into quarantine as authorities race to determine how a 13-year-old schoolgirl became infected with COVID-19.

The student, from St Thomas More College at Sunnybank, is the second locally-acquired case reported in Queensland in two days.

Authorities don’t yet know if there’s a link between the girl and a NSW truck driver who was infectious in the community at nearby Mount Gravatt and Archerfield on Sunday and Monday. Genome sequencing due back late on Friday or early on Saturday will reveal the results.

The truck driver spent some time at the Westfield Garden City shopping centre, less than five kilometres from the college.

The school was abruptly closed on Friday, with parents ordered to immediately collect their children, go home and remain there until further notice.

All households with a student at the college are subject to strict quarantine orders that won’t be lifted until authorities determine if the girl has passed the virus to anyone else.

All students and staff who attended the college on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week are considered close contacts of the girl.

Other close exposure sites include the Coles store at Pinelands Plaza on Monday afternoon, and the Banoon train station pedestrian overpass on Tuesday morning and afternoon.

Chief health officer Jeannette Young found out about the girl’s infection moments before she attended the daily virus briefing.

She said he had to get all families associated with the college into home quarantine as quickly as possible to limit any risk of spread.

The case added to her concerns about the truck driver who was out and about at various locations, many at the Westfield Garden City shopping complex, for two days while he was infectious.

Dr Young said the driver had had one vaccine dose, which was reassuring. But he also dined at the shopping centre food court when people would not have been wearing masks.

There was some good news on Friday for essential workers and students whose lives have been disrupted since Queensland stopped almost all cross-border movement due to the escalating crisis in NSW.

Queensland has agreed that border crossings can resume from 1am on Monday for those two groups – as long as they are coming from the NSW local government areas whose stay at home orders will lift at 12.01am on Saturday.

The Australian Medical Association of Queensland said it was a great relief that all medical support workers were now classed as essential workers and would soon be able to resume their important work.

“When the Queensland government tightened its essential worker definition … doctors and nurses could still cross the border but orderlies, cleaners, caterers and administrative staff were shut out,” president Chris Perry said.

“This created chaos in hospitals and health care services in the Coolangatta-Tweed Heads region.

“We heard stories about surgeons having to wheel patients into operating theatres, nurses having to sterilise equipment, physios having to strip beds and GPs left with no staff to answer the phones.”

-AAP